Coffee shops and ice cream parlours buck decline in high street store closures

Coffee shops and ice cream parlours are bucking the downturn in new retail openings by snapping up vacant shops across the UK.

New research published by PwC this week shows that high street store openings are at their lowest level for seven years. An average of 11 stores opened every day in 2017, down from 12 per day in 2016, and 15 in 2013. 16 high street stores closed every day last year, leaving a deficit of five.

But while the decline in retail outlets opened by banks, estate agent and travel agent numbers reflected the rising customer demand for online and apps, areas of the foodservice sector emerged as the biggest beneficiaries.

Coffee shops, cafés and tearooms, and ice cream parlours were among a small band of categories that also included beauty product stores, booksellers and tobacconists, which showed the highest increase in net store numbers.

Leisure chains, which includes food, beverage and entertainment venue, have also continued to see growth on the high street, with a net increase of 12 units (+0.07%) in 2017.

Openings and closures of multiple retailer units, 2013-2017. (Source: Local Data Company)

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said the volatility seen last year is still evident in the market today.

“We’ve seen a tough start to 2018, but it’s important to remember the British high street still plays a vital role in society and there are elements of growth amongst the headline numbers of decline. For example, almost 400 new clothes shops opened last year, even though over 700 closed. And, while four pubs a week closed, at the same time three a week opened.”

Mrs Hooker said that coffee shops and craft beer pubs were among the categories “flourishing” because they serve the needs of emerging consumer segments, such as experience-seeking millennials and offer a differentiated physical proposition that online offerings can’t compete with.

Overall the number of new high street stores opening in 2017 fell to 4,083 units, from 4,534 in 2016, according to the research compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC) for PwC.

The data shows that the second half of 2017 saw substantially more closures and less openings than the first six months of the year, reflecting a tough trading environment including a slowdown in consumer spending, rising staff and business rates costs, as well as a slowdown in food and beverage growth as consumer confidence reached a four-year low in December 2017.

5,855 outlets closed on Britain’s high streets in 2017, at a rate of 16 stores a day, a slight increase on the 15 stores a day closing in 2016, when 5,430 outlets closed. It is the second consecutive year the number of closures has risen. The findings equate to an overall net loss of 1,772 stores disappearing from British town centres in 2017.

London saw the greatest number of net closures (336), with the capital hit hardest by the business rates reassessment and a degree of saturation in the casual dining market.

Top retail and leisure risers and fallers by business type in 2017, excluding service retailers. (Source: Local Data Company)

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